After F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about America and aspiration entered the public domain in January, a glut of variations emerged that imagined the sentimental old sport, Jay Gatsby, as gay, a zombie or the hero of his own graphic novel.
And now, the hopeless romantic is getting the musical treatment.
“The Great Gatsby, A New Musical,” announced on Wednesday, has enlisted a formidable team to bring the self-made millionaire’s story to the stage. Florence Welch, the frontwoman of Florence + the Machine, will write the lyrics and compose the music with Thomas Bartlett, who collaborated with Sufjan Stevens on “Mystery of Love,” the Oscar-nominated song from “Call Me by Your Name.”
Rebecca Frecknall, who recently oversaw a popular new version of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” at London’s Almeida Theater, will direct, and the Polish-American playwright Martyna Majok, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2018 for “Cost of Living,” will write the book.
The adaptation will be produced by Len Blavatnik (“Moulin Rouge!,” “Jagged Little Pill”) and the English singer-songwriter Amanda Ghost in association with Robert Fox, an executive producer of the Netflix series “The Crown.”
No production timeline or cast has yet been announced.
Fitzgerald’s slim 1925 Jazz Age novel, which clocks in at just over 200 pages, has been ardently appreciated in recent decades, despite not initially registering as either a critical or financial success.
But if it seems like Gatsby adaptations have cropped up like Brood X cicadas so far this year, that’s because the novel entered the public domain in January — and the lapse of copyright protection means writers and artists no longer have to pay a fee or ask permission to use Fitzgerald’s characters or plots.
Yet even before the rights free-for-all, Gatsby had been a presence on the New York stage.
“Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service’s seven-hour staged reading of the novel that doubled as an endurance test (not a single “said” was omitted), opened Off Broadway at the Public Theater in 2010. Ben Brantley, the former co-chief theater critic of The New York Times, called the play, which dramatizes one reader’s gradual seduction by the novel, “the most compelling love affair being conducted on a New York stage this season.”
Across the pond, a long-running immersive theater production that features its own cocktail menu and encourages period regalia was revamped for a socially-distanced staging last fall. (It will make its American debut in New York City later this year.) And a concert staging of “Gatsby A Musical,” set seven years after the novel’s events and filmed at London’s Cadogan Hall, streamed in February.
But the producers of this “Gatsby” are hoping their show’s bohemian exuberance speaks to theatergoers who have gone more than a year without much to celebrate.
“It’s been 100 years since ‘The Great Gatsby’ was published,” Ghost and Fox said in a statement. “And there could be no better time for a new musical adaptation of the greatest party America ever threw.”